You're walking alone on the street at night, but then you hear another set of footsteps and a haunting tune being whistled by an unseen stranger. Fritz Lang used an similar premise in his 1930s German movie with Peter Lorre playing M, a psychopathic murderer of children. But the American radio series was even creepier. The unseen Whistler didn't kill anyone (that we know of), but he certainly loved watching murders take place, narrating them for us, and chuckling at the suffering of others instead of doing anything to stop it. Unlike M, he was never caught. He kept walking the streets every week for thirteen long years, whistling his ominous thirteen notes and telling us another tale of bizarre fate. Perhaps Fate is who the Whistler really was? He never provided any sir name, and the killer was usually punished by some twist of fate that only The Whistler seemed to expect.
It is very likely The Whistler was inspired by The Shadow, which began nearly a decade earlier. Like the Shadow, the Whistler seemed to enter and exit the criminal underworld without ever being seen. He would watch the evil doers carry out their schemes, yet they never saw him, even though he would tell us what they were thinking in their presence. His voice sounded equally sinister to The Shadow, too. It was was a slithering tenor, hissing the "s's" and often laughing "heh-heh-heh-hehheh!" at the foolishness of the guilty. Both series had similar opening lines: The Shadow "knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men", whereas The Whistler "knows many strange tales hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows." When Bill Forman served 1/2 year in the military, Marvin Miller substituted as The Whistler.
Also like The Shadow, several different actors played the title role over the course of The Whistler series. Bill Forman played it the most, but his announcer (Marvin Miller) substituted for him during the six months of his army duty (Buxton, 256). Gale Gordon and Joseph Kearns voiced the Whistler in earlier days, while Everett Clarke played the character in 1947 and Bill Johnstone did in 1948 (Dunning, 719).
The last similarity was the saddest one. Both series ended about the time frame (in the mid 1950s). Crime increased in the following decades, maybe because the guilty felt they were no longer being watched and could get away with murder. Or could it be that the Whistler is saving up some more great stories to tell us about in the future?
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April 2, 2016 Subject:
WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM
I've been meaning to write a review for this very entertaining old time radio program, which has replaced Suspense as my favorite. Besides being densely populated with femmes fatales*, many episodes have ad content which brings the mid-late 1940s to life.
And just now listening to episode 92, at approx 5:05 minutes in comes WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM and several seconds of dead air...followed by news about bombing Japan in an effort to get "Emperor Hirohito and his ministers" to stop waffling about surrendering and do it, unconditionally, or face more destruction. Which we know now was a promise we were ready to keep by early August 1945...
* and as many hommes fatales: anxious heirs tending to stubbornly mortal aunts and uncles; loving spouses busy blackmailing, poisoning, shooting, strangling, and pushing each other off cliffs...somehow hundreds of these together is the stuff of delicious black comedy. Ask THE WHISTLER.
October 17, 2015 Subject:
Always great to hear these!
Love, love, love this. I am thrilled that all these wonderful old radio programs are preserved. They sure don't make stuff like this anymore :)
October 10, 2015 Subject:
the audio is pretty good
"Wait a minute... Have you heard the strange tales on The Whistler...?" [whistling tune comes in, voice says "I'm the WHISTLER"
This same premise is on shows like Suspense! and "Theatre Five". Those are really good too. There are not any interesting shows like this on anymore. These are perfectly acted, directed, everything. They all kind of have the same premise- suspenseful plot, then the bad guy(s) characters get their ironic comeuppance in the end, something along those lines.
You'd think that with all of the tools and technology and access to information we have now, shows and things would get better. Nope!
My favorite "The Whistler" episode is really the Jack Benny joke on the show called The Fiddler and had Dennis Day is an idiot married to a woman who's having an affair. Hilarious. Jack Benny shows are in archive too. But don't watch the newest episodes, they stunk.
October 5, 2015 Subject:
Great show - Makes me want some Signal Oil
This show holds up well. I have listened to most of these episodes several times, and feel they hold up very well. Great twist endings.
March 6, 2015 Subject:
I listened to the whole series and was amazed at the cleverness. These stories almost all have twist endings that are really inventive yet believable. High quality throughout all years of the series, which can't be said of many radio suspense series.
May 13, 2014 Subject:
The Whistler Radio Program
There are often parts of this show that are unintentionally funny.
Episode 1...the idiot son.
Episode 2...the talking shrunken head.
Episode 3...the suspicous notes and then a voice saying, "I must kill Henry."
April 20, 2013 Subject:
I am the Whistler.....
Love this it's just as good as The Shadow another favorite!
May 13, 2012 Subject:
The master of the twist ending
The Whistler always proposes treacherous characters that get a good dose of what they deserve. I am never disappointed with the way the stories have a surprise twist that pulls it together even more. I highly recommend for Noir and mystery fans.